Officials to be rated on pollution control
The central government is planning to introduce a new system to evaluate officials at all levels, with effective environmental protection as an important index.
The idea, dubbed the "green GDP (gross domestic product) assessment," has been hailed by top legislators and experts as an effective way to increase local officials' environmental awareness and spur them into action.
Pan Yue, deputy director general of the State Environmental Protection Administration, said on Monday that the administration is working with the Organization Department of the Party Central Committee to introduce such a system in some provinces.
Under the new system, the performance ranking of local officials in protecting the environment would affect their future promotion.
Southwest China's Sichuan Province is one of the pilot provinces where the system was implemented last year, said provincial governor Zhang Zhongwei, who is a deputy to National People's Congress (NPC).
He said Tuesday that the system adopted in Sichuan evaluates officials at three grades and officials failing to meet the target on environmental protection are downgraded, no matter how well they perform economically.
Zhang hailed the expected nationwide introduction of the system as "good opportunity" for China, which is committing to adopting a "scientific concept of development."
The new concept, advocated by top Chinese leaders like President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, stresses sustainable economic and social progress as well as effective protection of natural resources and environment.
"Our experience is that such evaluation is effective to mobilize local officials for sustainable development," said Zhang.
As for Zhang himself, he has also pledged specific targets in environmental protection to the provincial people's congress, which is responsible for electing him as governor.
"My goal is to clear Minjiang River, Tuojiang River and Jialinjiang River in five years," he said.
If he fails to meet the announced goals, the governor would face the blame of congress, said Zhang.
Sichuan Province has benefited a lot from the system, he said. The favourable ecological situation has laid a good foundation for developing tourism, which is becoming a pillar industry of the province.
Zhao Chenggen, professor of the School of Government at Peking University, said such system is a "very good thing'' for China.
China has witnessed rapid economic growth in past two decades, while in some areas, the economic achievements were made at the cost of the environment, said Zhao, who described such growth as "unbalanced development."
Environmental protection is an important component of balanced development, he said.
However, making those evaluation systems open and fair is a very difficult thing to do, he said.
"Technically speaking, it is one of a most difficult things to create a specific system to evaluate the performance of officials, such as what kind of indices should be included in the system," said Zhao.
And an NPC deputy from a Northwest Province told China Daily on condition of anonymity that it is unfair to include officials in West China in such system.
Coastal provinces have made remarkable economic progress in the past two decades at the cost of deteriorating environment, while the economic boom in West China provinces just started in recent years.
The deputy complained that the coastal provinces are able to invest more money on environmental protection, while the lack of money will prevent provinces in West China from making more efforts to stop pollution.
Zhao said that if the central government should carries out the balanced development strategy across the country, it will give more compensation or financial aid to West China to help them realize healthy and environmentally-friendly development.